OKLAHOMA CITY — Capt. Jeffrey Morefield, commander of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment, Oklahoma National Guard, deployed with his unit in support of Operation Spartan Shield in December 2019. While he was away, he watched from a secure location in the Middle East as COVID-19 spread around the world.
“We felt the effects of COVID while we were overseas,” Morefield said. “There were some similarities (while deployed), like mask wearing and social distancing, but the magnitude was not felt until we hit the ground back home.”
When Morefield’s unit arrived back home, they were dropped into a society that had spent six months gradually adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the returning Soldiers were forced to adopt them right away, which Morefield said was a process to get used to.
“When you get home, not only do you have to reintegrate into your home and family life, you also have to reintegrate into this whole new world,” Morefield said. “You try to prep for it mentally, physically and spiritually, but there was really no way to prep for the reality. You couldn’t shake hands and give hugs, all those things you did before it was frowned upon, and you get people looking at you crazy if you do. There was no tangible living experience for us to go through to understand because we were not immersed in it. It wasn’t real until we got home.”
Despite the COVID learning curve, Morefield, who is also a 22 year veteran of the Edmond Police Department, said the other shock was that his community did not appear to be the same as when he left. He said he noticed many of the brick-and-mortar stores that were open prior to his deployment were now closed, and heard many stories while working his beat from people who were recently unemployed or not able to pay their bills.
Morefield decided he cannot fix the entire community, but he can have a small impact locally. Morefield then selflessly chose to donate his entire stimulus check to help a local coffee shop that was struggling to pay their bills.
“I didn’t feel like I deserved it,” Morefield said. “The stimulus in my mind was to try and help people who have not had a job, laid off or for businesses to try and help survive. For me, I’ve had a check the entire time. I felt a sense of guilt if I was to accept the stimulus check.”
However, when the owner of the café received the check from Morefield, she did not keep any of the money. Instead she divided the money equally between three other businesses who were also struggling to pay salaries and keep their doors open.
“She decided there are other people who need the money more than she did,” Morefield said.
From there, the giving did not stop. Another struggling business was given $500, which was then matched and passed on to another business.
“It’s like going to a restaurant and paying for the next people in line,” Morefield said. “It has been a pay-it-forward process. My purpose was for us to look in the mirror and ask if we need the money or if somebody else needs the money. I also wanted to challenge others to go into small businesses and either donate to them or support them.”
With a lineage of military service and decades of service to his community, state and country, Morefield said he wants to continue to find ways to selflessly serve the people who serve him.
“These local businesses are the ones sponsoring your child’s baseball uniform or ballet slippers, or supporting welcome home ceremonies for the military,” Morefield said. “I just felt like it was time for us, in this time, to give back to them. It is a call to rally behind these small businesses. People going out and supporting your communities is the best way to do it.”